By Duane Fonseca
Godolphin America’s star act Essential Quality further cemented his position as one of the continent’s top 3yos showing he is game to lay down all to bid for glory.
The Tapit colt homebred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s global racing operation did just that when taking in a career fourth Grade 1 success in the form of the Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Saturday.
A two time Grade 1 victor as a juvenile, Brad Cox’s charge won the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes to his growing repertoire in June, which was a brilliant bounce back from his hearty but luckless run in the Kentucky Derby in May in which he finished a fast closing fourth behind winner Medina Spirit.
Essential Quality bunged the start in the 2000m contest on dirt at Saratoga, even as Preakness Stakes runner up Midnight Bourbon flew out of the gates establishing himself as the runaway leader with a near four length lead.
Luis Saez sat patiently on Essential Quality making sure he was settled in second turning into the back straight. The chasing pack steadily closed in on Steve Asmussen’s Ricardo Santana Jr. driven Midnight Bourbon, with Essential Quality clearly the top challenger a length back turning for home. Saez drove his partner hard and Essential Quality responded gamely and dug deep to quite comfortably take over the running in the final 300m and win by a neck. A further five lengths back in third was Chad Brown’s Miles D with Flavien Prat up.
Winning trainer Cox said: “Essential Quality broke well. We were hoping that he wouldn’t lose as much ground and have more of a ground-saving trip as opposed to the Jim Dandy. Luis did a good job of recognizing that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of pace. He asked him to run out of there and established good position and didn’t let Midnight Bourbon get too far away up the backside. I was a little worried up the backside once he cleared up with softer fractions. He’s a tremendous horse. He’s a champion and he ran like one today.
“He has danced a lot of dances and shown up. His lone defeat was the Kentucky Derby, where we felt he was right there in the mix. He’s done nothing wrong. We are proud of what he has accomplished this year and he’s a very good horse with a fantastic resume.”
Essential Quality’s ride partner Saez added: “It’s amazing - that’s my second Travers and I’m so thankful to be here and be a part of it in this amazing race. To me, Essential Quality is the best horse, the horse of the year, and he deserves all the credit.”
Godolphin USA President Jimmy Bell said: “It says a lot about his His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s breeding and racing program to be able to put an athlete like this to the forefront as a two-year old and a three-year old.
“Essential Quality has brought a lot of joy to everyone. It’s been a great team effort. Brad and his team have done a great job. When you go to the Belmont at the mile and a half, to a mile and an eighth in the Jim Dandy and to a mile and a quarter here, hats off to the way they brought him into this race in good form.”